Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Manager

In speaking with many people unhappy at companies I've seen a trend in what has been misinterpreted and perverted as management.  Manager is a term that has been confused with the role of a leader which has causes and causes daily destructive consequences.  In the most practical sense of the word a manager within a company/business context is a supervisor or one in charge of a team.  Whatever that team's job maybe it is the managers job to oversee their success, etc.  What is a manager?  What should a manager be?  What should a manager do?  These are all valid questions, questions that many that are being managed ask, which causes a rift in the culture and tearing of the fabric of a company.  Morale is negatively impacted when these questions are unaddressed or dismissed as insubordinate.  Although the questions are not asked directly you can feel their presence just below the surface of circumstantial dilemmas.  What a manager is defined as and thus what their role and area of expertise is determines the success of a team and ultimately company or business.  

Where are we?  Let's first discuss the context that many of us find ourselves within concerning managers.  Most work for stable companies where managers are promoted from within based on their expertise and experience of that area or subject matter.  But what is it that a manager should be an expert at?  Is it the subject matter itself that a manager is concerned with or is it the people?  If person A is an expert on subject X, is it necessary to be an expert of X to be a manager?  The answer to that question is what separates companies and departments employees thrive in and enjoy from those who promote mediocrity and low morale.  My prescription to this query is absolutely not.  No, a manager doesn't need to be the expert in a certain subject matter in order to be an effective manager.  Managers are simply supposed to be individuals who are skilled at motivating and coaching people.  If that is the definition we use in terms of what a manager should be then it is unnecessary to posses expertise in any area outside of people skills.  

Companies/businesses that select managers based upon their expertise in a subject matter or experience and time with that company fail to realize that just because someone has done something successfully for 30 years does not mean they would make a good manager.  Many talented basketball players would make horrible coaches and there are coaches that are horrible at actually playing the game.  The general premise is pretty simple, managers are supposed to be people oriented, skilled at motivating and serving others as a means of accomplishing a task.  If Jane make widgets really well and Jane is promoted to manager because of that, is it because she makes widgets well or is actually good at managing people? This question should be asked and is necessary to consider.  The assumption that Jane will be a good manager because she has exceeded company standards in widget making and done so for consecutive years is a very flawed and dangerous one.  

Business needs managers, not experts in subject matter that cannot manage people.  Expertise in subject matter outside of people skills for a manager is nothing more than extras.  I'd rather have a manager skilled in people management than skilled at the job in which the people they manage perform.  If companies and businesses thought more so this way we'd see more productive and effective work being done.  What are your thoughts?

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